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Farewell, Agha sahab

On the somber morning of January 29, as the sun was obliterated by bushy clouds, our world suddenly and shockingly plunged into darkness. Death snatched from us our beloved leader and charismatic torchbearer. We lost our ‘Agha sahab’. We lost our guiding light. We lost our way. Of course, life is a fleeting shadow and death is inevitable. But somehow it is never easy to come to terms with such a monumental loss. It is never easy to convince yourself that someone who was larger than life is no longer with us.
The untimely and heart wrenching death of Aga Syed Mohammad Fazlullah Al-Moosavi, the president of J&K AnjumanSharieeShiaan and chairman of Ayatollah Yusuf Memorial Trust, has left his legions of lovers and admirers gutted. A top-notch Islamic scholar and an influential cleric, Agha sahab, 70, left for his heavenly abode after a brief spell of illness. His death is a loss for Kashmir, an irreparable and irreplaceable loss.
To bid him tearful adieu, tens of thousands of people from different parts of valley descended on his hometown soon after the news about his death broke out. There was chaos and commotion. Streets were flooded with people – young and old, men and women. Heart-rending elegies were reverberating from all sides. Everyone was grieving the loss of their beloved Agha sahab. The grief was too much to bear. The feeling of loss and bereavement was intense. Life, with his death, had come to a grinding halt.
On a one-mile stretch from his ancestral house in Shariat Abad Budgam to Ayatollah Aga Syed Mehdi cemetery, his final resting place, eyes were moist and hearts were heavy as people jostled to shoulder his casket on its final journey. Aga sahab was no more but nobody had the courage to swallow the hard pill. It still doesn’t sink in. It never may.
Aga Fazlullah was a towering Islamic scholar, educationist and cleric from the illustrious Safvi-Moosvi family of Budgam known for its religious scholarship. The eldest son of Ayatollah Aga Syed Yusuf Al-Moosavi, the founder of J&K AnjumanSharieeShiaan, Aga Fazlullah commendably preserved and carried forward the rich legacy of his family for more than five decades. Besides being a highly revered religious preacher and prayer leader, he was also a top-notch social and educational reformer. He established and ran hundreds of Quranic schools across the valley and laid the foundation of Imambarah Ayatollah Yousuf in Bemina, which is the largest and first-of-its-kind hosseiniyah in J&K.
Aga Fazlullah was raised in a spiritual environment under the tutelage of his father, a legendary Islamic scholar and reformer. His early education took place at Jamia Babul Ilm, a prestigious institution of religious studies in Budgam established by his father, and later he spent years at a religious seminary in Najaf Iraq. In Iraq, he developed close association with some of the leading scholars and jurists of their time. He was also a point of contact between his father Ayatollah Aga Syed Yousuf and the leader of Islamic revolution in Iran Ayatollah Rohullah Khomeini. They shared close bond and exchanged letters very often, before and after the revolution.
Ayatollah Aga Syed Yousuf’s home in Budgam was an apex Shariah court in Kashmir where minor and major disputes were settled amicably, in the light of Shariah. His verdicts were always non-partisan and non-controversial, which earned him tremendous respect from both Shias and Sunnis. Following his death in 1982, Aga Fazlullah took over the reins and continued the tradition. Like his father, Aga Fazlullah’s rulings were always in sync with Shariah and Quran. Truth, as he always emphasized, was sacred and sacrosanct.
Aga’s death, widely described as an ‘irreparable loss’, marks the end of an era. His death was widely condoled in and outside Kashmir, cutting across religious, ideological and political lines. Both mainstream and separatist leaders issued statements, paying glowing tributes to the deceased. Many local, national and international socio-religious organizations hailed his contribution to society, especially towards social and religious awakening.
Aga was an institution in himself. Thousands of people, who followed him on his final journey, shedding tears and beating chests, mourned the loss of an extraordinary scholar, a great reformer and a visionary leader. I never realized he had touched so many lives in so many ways until I saw all kinds of people sitting at his grave, inconsolable and devastated. The fresh soil of the grave was wet with tears and screams were echoing from all sides. Truly, everyone dies, but not everyone lives.
Quite remarkably, Aga was a non-controversial and incorruptible leader. A righteous and virtuous servant of Allah and a staunch lover of Ahlulbayt, his actions were guided by the teachings of Holy Prophet (pbuh). Despite many trials and tribulations, especially after the death of his father, he remained steadfast and firm on his chosen path. He never allowed worldly charms distract him from the godly track nor did he amass wealth to lead a luxurious life. His coffin came out of the same decrepit house where he spent his early childhood days. He lived a poor man and died a poor man.
The clutches of death are inescapable. The world hereafter is the final destination for everyone. But it’s impossible not to mourn the loss of your beloved scholars and leaders. Apart from god-fearfulness and high principles, Aga had larger than life personality, amazing oratorical skills and great leadership qualities. In the month of Muharram, in particular, his majalis (mourning gatherings) were tremendously popular. His inimitable rendition of the events of Karbala, an art he had learned from his father, had no match. With his departure, Muharram will never be the same again; life will never be the same again.
His death is a huge personal loss. Life without ‘Abba’ was unimaginable, but this world is not loyal to anyone. He taught us so many things but he never taught us how to live without him. Worse, he left without a final goodbye, without a farewell letter. The journey back from Tehran to Kashmir was the most difficult journey of my life. I couldn’t make it to his funeral. But there was a sea of people to give him a warm sendoff. I realized it was not a loss for our family alone. Everyone was bereaved. Everyone was mourning. Abba is no longer with us but his life and legacy will inspire us forever.
(The writer is a Kashmiri journalist presently based in Tehran. He was previously based in New Delhi and Kabul. He can be reached at: [email protected]